In case you missed any of the candidate forums, we wanted to put them all in one convenient place. It took nearly three weeks after the League of Women Voters forum for them to post it on their Facebook page, so you may have missed it completely. There were some heated exchanges during and after some of the forums. Some day I hope more people get to understand what happened.
And I’m being outspent by my opponents’ dark money PACs 100 to 1.
One of those PACs is tied to election deniers, MAGA extremists and SPLC-designated hate groups. The efforts appear to be coming from out of state. I filed a complaint with KREF on Sept. 9, but to date, they have not been able to locate the entities and individuals behind the deceptive campaigns in order to serve them with the allegations against them so the 15-day response period can commence. The right-wing extremist candidate they are supporting pulled his child from JCPS when he did not get his way with regards to masking, returning to school safely during a pandemic, the teaching of accurate history and the harms that racism causes to this day, to the point of bullying his child’s teachers. He wrote numerous letters to board members showing us exactly who he is.
Another PAC that is endorsing the incumbent has been led by the same man for over two decades. Over the years, he has been embroiled in numerous controversies when it comes to campaign violations, including recruiting someone to run for school board in a district that they did not live in and lying about their address, to sabotaging efforts of authentic concerned parents who wanted to run. But the greatest reason for concern, in my opinion, is how tightly he controls who serves on the PAC, how the clandestine election process benefits entrenched white leaders, and how the vote tabulation software can be easily manipulated to show whatever results he claims. This board chooses which candidates to endorse (or not endorse) and how much money to spend on their campaigns. For example, BSK is currently spending five times more on TV ads for the white incumbents who voted with him on the mask mandate, than they are on the Black incumbents who voted with their constituents. Teachers who are members of JCTA pay dues, and some of the dues money goes into BSK. They tell me their input on who to endorse is never sought, and there have been numerous incidents where members were outraged by their endorsements.
I’m just a PTA mom trying to be part of the solution. These individuals running to represent my community are latecomers to the public education scene, who don’t have the slightest idea what’s at stake, nor do they have a clue about how to address the crises that face our schools. I’ve been in the trenches literally doing this work for over a decade. When my current board member showed us that he either can’t or won’t hold district leaders accountable, and more recently, has refused to stand up to the bullies who continue to disrupt our meetings, I knew he needed to be replaced. When I couldn’t find anyone else to do this increasingly hostile, thankless, unpaid job, I stepped up. I don’t ask people to do things I’m not willing to do myself.
Below is the press conference held in front of Van Hoose befor the JCPS Board meeting Tuesday night, where one of the organizations I lead, Dear JCPS, announced the launch of our new Political Action Committee. Now JCPS teachers have a choice.
Inside the board meeting, the topic of the legislative priorities was on the agenda. I also spoke about my experiences over the past decade.
You can watch my speech here.
Please help this PTA Mom have a fighting chance to save Kentucky’s schools. We are the largest district in our state by nearly three times. We are the largest state in the country that is not decimated by charter schools and vouchers, yet. My race is not the only linchpin, but it is A linchpin because our board’s voting margin on important issues tends to be 4-3 and it tends to be divided along racial lines. If we lose just one seat to right wing extremists, we will lose our district to fascist ideologies. My board member has already shown us which side he’s on. In the other races, the incumbents are
Without some kind of hail Mary miracle play, incumbents are most likely to win, especially when they have hundreds of thousands of dollars of ill-gotten funds funneled into their race. The ONLY way we are going to win this is through word of mouth. I’ve been asking students to participate in a social experiment. Please help us spread the message by donating to our campaign, volunteering and telling everyone you know to vote #GPA4JCPS!
Before you head to the polls on election day, (or mail in your ballot, or vote absentee), I’d like to share with you some factual information that might influence your decision. I’m just sharing the facts. Feel free to research them for yourself.
During the April 26 Board Meeting (clip shown above), James made a motion to adopt a redistricting scenario that would put Steve Ullum’s address in District 3. Prior to his motion, Ullum’s house was in District 2 and would not have been eligible to run in this year’s election. Did he even know? WFPL states that District 3 was one of the least impacted districts, so why does he even care. Now they are trying to tell us that Ullum moved into that house just so he could run. That’s not what our research shows. But that still doesn’t change the fact that James’ motion made Steve’s address eligible.
In July, he told an audience that there were “two groups” involved in the tax petition efforts and “both groups” had to be taken to the Kentucky Supreme Court. This is a lie. No wonder he turned his back on me when I went up to ask him who the other group was at the end of the meeting.
Here’s a link to the livestream. The lie starts at around the 17-minute mark, and I go into a great more detail here:
Not only is he misrepresenting our efforts, he’s flat out wrong to say our signatures were fraudulent or that they took us all the way to the Kentucky Supreme Court. They simply didn’t.
There’s enough bullying going on in our schools without more of it coming from the top. There’s enough lies and deceit in our government without public school board members adding to the mix. This is one of many reasons why I decided to challenge my school board member in his campaign for re-election. We cannot afford to allow those who do not recognize what’s happening, or worse, see it and still refuse to stand up to these bullies and liars, but instead become more like them, to remain in leadership during these dangerous and tumultuous times.
Louisville is home to the largest school district in Kentucky. In fact, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) is three times larger than our state’s next largest school district, which is in Lexington. These two counties, along with a few progressive bright spots here and there, are the main reason we had the good fortune of electing a calm and collected Democratic governor who was able to protect Kentuckians from a cruel and vindictive GOP supermajority during the pandemic. So, just because we are a red state that’s been in an eternal chokehold by Senator Mitch McConnell does not mean we are a lost cause. In fact, I predict that the chain of events, that began with an abortion trigger law passing the KY General Assembly in 2019, to the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade, to a proposed amendment to the Kentucky Constitution to make the trigger law permanent and irreversible on the Nov. 8 ballot, is the perfect storm we have been waiting for.
Since 2017, the Kentucky legislature has passed 15 bills that have restricted access to abortion in the state. Among them is a 2019 law… that would ban abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant. That same year, Kentucky passed a “trigger law,” that calls for banning all abortions should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
Kentucky is also the largest of six states that does not have charter schools or vouchers, yet.
Charter schools are run by private boards and funded with public money. They’ve technically been legal in Kentucky since 2017, but there are not yet any because lawmakers didn’t create a permanent funding mechanism for them until 2022. Numerous bodies must create regulations before would-be charter boards can apply to open schools.
Former KY Governor Matt Bevin made charter schools central to his term in office, which also helped make him a one-term governor. Voters successfully replace him in 2019, but the supermajority GOP took advantage of the pandemic and passed the bills we had successfully stopped until then.
JCPS operates 167 schools across nearly 400 square miles, and consists of the entirety of all public school students in downtown and West Louisville and dozens of surrounding neighborhoods and incorporated towns that make up our consolidated Louisville Metro Government after our city and county governments merged in 2001. In 1975, busing was implemented and for the last 40 years has been used as a political tool to act like we’re “doing something” when all we’re really doing is denying predominantly Black West Louisville families access to the same opportunities as everyone else, causing even more harm.
The district defines “market share” as the % of students in a resides location attending a Jefferson County Public School. Since 2017, the district’s population has declined from 96,275 to 92,786 in 2022. This also represents a sharp drop in market share from a steady 80.7% or higher three years in a row to 79% or less since the onset of the pandemic.
At the same time, percentages of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch have increased. These figures indicate that the higher saturation levels of poverty could be due to the exodus of a higher percentage of students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunch, who may have alternatives available, such as home schooling or private school enrollment. It could also indicate families who were not previously living in poverty may have experienced economic hardship since the pandemic. Either way, JCPS struggles in attracting and retaining students whose families economic situations reduce the poverty saturation levels, when doing so would make drastic and lasting improvements in the outcomes of all of our students, and help us create a roadmap to closing achievement gaps and opportunities.
With more than 20% of Jefferson County’s school-aged children attending a non-public school, the opportunities to not only stop the market share decline but to recapture some of those students so that we align more closely to the national average of 12% attending non-public school, means 8,000 to 10,000 higher performing students could be attracted to choose a public school if the offerings met their needs and expectations. What a positive difference not only having the agency and advocacy of these families showing up for our students, but a dramatic shift in demographics that could make for ALL of Jefferson County students and taxpayers.
When I first tell people Kentucky’s Constitutional Amendment to ban abortions is a centerpiece of my campaign for JCPS school board (Louisville, KY), I am usually met with a look of scorn, as if I’m conflating issues or drawing unnecessary political or even gender divides.
When I remind them that some of our students will be getting pregnant, and that 10-year-old girls might be forced to give birth to their rapist’s babies, their expression quickly turns to concern. I remind them that we will need to restore investments in drop-out prevention and childcare programs, such as our heralded TAPP school, as well as trauma counseling, healthy relationships and more. We will also need to provide comprehensive, medically accurate sex education curriculum in our schools in an effort to curb the cycle of childhood pregnancies and sexual abuse.
I also remind them we already have a teacher and staffing shortage, yet more district employees who get pregnant will be forced to carry unwanted or medically unsafe pregnancies to term or seek clandestine and dangerous medical care, only adding more pressure to short-staffed school environments. Shortly after the decision was overturned by our ill-gotten Supreme Court, I published a blog piece on my website entitled, “What Does the Reversal of Roe Vs. Wade Have to Do with Public Education?”
As a woman who has been pregnant on several occasions, I can speak about my own experiences with medical care, complications, private conversations with family members and medical professionals, and difficult personal decisions that can come into play with each pregnancy. I can attest to the importance of a person’s right to make our own healthcare decisions. My male opponents can’t and won’t touch this issue, despite it being on everyone’s minds.
With a trigger law already enacted in Kentucky, and a Constitutional Amendment on Kentucky’s November ballot that would permanently and totally ban abortion in our state, we are already seeing signs that progressive voters in Louisville will be showing up in full force this November.
We have known that outside special interest groups and billionaires have been infiltrating our school boards and elected positions for years, but they’ve gotten bolder as of late. A coordinated effort by at least one Christian nationalist group out of Texas has been targeting school board races this election cycle. And there is an entire slate of endorsed dark-money “liberty” candidates running for every open seat in my district. Several other groups, also out of Texas, appear to be putting their thumb on the scale of races in a dozen or so districts across the state. They are not part of our community, nor do they represent the values and views of the majority of us who do live here. What does this have to do with JCPS? We have documented many of these same individuals who have been attending our meetings also organizing anti-abortion rallies and even hanging our Democratic governor in effigy, while our super-majority GOP legislature stripped him of his emergency powers during a pandemic.
The “Liberty Caucus” challenger in my District 3 race is in lockstep with a local chapter of a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group, which has dogwhistles like “stop the steal” and “the gay agenda” on their website. He helped lead protesters at a recent anti-mask rally as they demanded our board overturn a masking policy that was aligned with CDC recommendations and had been in effect since the end of the previous school year; a decision that had just been unanimously renewed by the board just two weeks prior. We recognize these “bad actors” as having also been part of the “school choice” movement, anti-CRT and anti-mask rhetoric and other disinformation campaigns. They are preying on the trust and innocence of Kentucky’s God-fearing and faithful residents. Just as they have done in our rural mining and farming communities, they are exploiting their access to historically oppressed and disenfranchised groups. A strategy which has become entrenched under Mitch McConnell’s eternally failed leadership.
The union-endorsed incumbents in three of the four races in Louisville’s sprawling urban public school system will likely face little difficulty holding on to their seats, due to the fact that they are not “liberty candidates” and they do not have a more progressive challenger. Mine is the only race where the incumbent has a challenger who is demonstrably more progressive, and who has not only demonstrated the wherewithal to recognize these predatory practices and tactics, but has a proven track record of leading the charge against them. Me.
This is where I could use your help. We can’t compete dollar for dollar with the dark money that’s backing the “liberty” candidates. Nor can we summon the millions of PAC dollars, labor, resources and social capital the teachers’ union can and will put forth for the enabling incumbent. The only way we are going to protect our public schools from these predators and their enablers is through word of mouth. We accomplished a similar feat in 2016 when the community rallied around the removal of unpopular JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens. It became clear that they only way we were going to get rid of her was to get rid of the Humana heir turned JCPS Board Chair who continued to use the school board as his personal instrument of venture capitalism, charity and white saviorism, despite being caught in the act on several occasions. The teachers’ union did not endorse in that race, but a grassroots parent teacher advocacy group I run called Dear JCPS held a candidate interest meeting where Chris Kolb was in attendance. Six years ago, with the support of our members and other social justice groups in town, Kolb handily beat Jones. Word of mouth worked then and it can work now. Especially once people take notice of the questionable actions of the District 3 incumbent, seemingly enabled by the past-his-prime teachers’ union president, both of whom present themselves as cis white men. Meanwhile, the union PAC, which is tightly controlled by the 22+-year president, seems to have endorsements that frequently go against members’ express opinions and wishes. He has been caught creating unwanted member surveys about masking, which ripped open political wounds for no other apparent purpose than to jeopardize a board vote that had just passed unanimously two weeks prior. This manufactured crisis gave the incumbent the opportunity to garner some “earned media” and appear to be the hero to the same anti-masker, book-burning, abortion-banning radicals who are clearly using our board meetings to recruit and radicalize their base for the next treasonous act. Since we can’t seem to get our local officials to track or stand up to these dangerous predators, we need #AllEyesOnKentucky.
You don’t have to live in my district or even in Kentucky to make a difference. You can make a donation, volunteer and share our posts on social media. A lot can happen in two months. Especially in Louisville, Kentucky, home of Breonna Taylor, heart of a DOJ Patterns and Practices investigation of LMPD, where Federal Charges were just brought by Merrick Garland against four officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s murder, where Rand Paul’s US Senate Seat is being challenged by Charles Booker, there’s a Constitutional amendment on abortion, and now a critical and contentious school board race.
At the beginning of this month, my husband and I paid a visit to Eastern Kentucky to witness the flood devastation first-hand and to offer our support to impacted public schools, in particular. We’ve made connections in Letcher, Perry and Hazard Counties. And we are still making meaningful connections, weeks later. The work continues, even after aid and media coverage are exhausted. As co-founder of Save Our Schools Kentucky and Dear JCPS, I would like to extend the book drive that we did in partnership with Louisville PTO and Highland Cleaners and other groups last year, to deliver books and school supplies to our neighbors whose schools have been impacted by floods and other disasters, both natural and man-made.
Please read Eastern Kentucky Needs More Than Our Thoughts and Prayers to see a recap of our visit, learn about extenuating circumstances and unaddressed root causes, which have served to exacerbate the impacts of the flooding. Then, start collecting your books and join us for an event in mid-October as we gather the books and deliver them to school libraries and classrooms in need.
We will be posting wish lists and direct addresses where you can also send your donations. Thank you for your support.
My JCPS Board Member is James Craig. I voted for him four years ago, and I encouraged others to, as well. I started Louisville’s first and most notorious pro public education, anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-privatizer advocacy group, Dear JCPS in 2015, so, as you can imagine, a lot of people follow my guidance when it comes to who to vote for.
He seemed like an okay enough bloke. He’s a local defense attorney, who seems to understand cause and effect and speaks progressively enough that I figured, “surely he’ll vote right.” Plus, he had teachers’ union backing (back when their endorsement still meant something). There was no reason to think that he wasn’t going to win, and I saw no reason to go against him.
Fast forward to last January, when I tagged him in a post under an alternative Facebook account I was forced to use, due to my primary account always being on lockdown. Using the alias Nikki Bidness, I made an observation that he had voted against all three Black board members when it came to following CDC guidance. But it was even funnier, because he blocked my primary account, which I wasn’t even using at the time.
But this wasn’t the first, and it wouldn’t be the last time James blocked or ignored me.
Here’s a text message I sent to him in December of 2020, along with an email I sent to the entire board. He assured me then, that he not only agreed with one of my recommendations, but he would look into the others.
When the painfully delayed student assignment plan finally made it onto the board’s agenda, there was outcry from the Highlands families (an eccentric pocket of wealthy liberals living in close proximity to Downtown Louisville) who were upset their littles would have to travel outside of their neighborhoods to attend their favorite schools, so guess what. Changes were made. The proposal was tweaked. Just like that.
Black and brown community members, and those who support them, marched in the streets. It wasn’t the only message, but addressing root cause issues certainly can’t be done if we’re not talking about equity in our public schools. There was an entire tax increase that needed our community’s attention and support. But instead of considering the multi-layered and ongoing protests and objections from grassroots groups and impacted community members, we were ignored. When we objected to being ignored, we were thrown under the bus.
When I did an open records request to try to learn more about the allegations of racial discrimination in the district’s maintenance department, I was once again dragged through social media by my own board member.
A lawyer, of all people, should know that accessing public records is crucial to transparency that goes along with holding board members and district leaders accountable. When elected leaders object to due process, it really begs the question, “What are they trying to hide?”
Then there was the time I had to dip into my own pockets to purchase “VOTE YES” yard signs to counter the “No Tax Hike” petitioners “VOTE NO” yard signs. Too much was at stake to assume “Support Public Schools” yard signs would convey the message that people needed to vote for the tax increase. We had, in fact, put together a scalable proposal and met with Dr. Pollio about our vision and strategies on more than one occasion. Our proposal was not accepted, but many of our strategies were in play, such as the formation of a 501(c)_ to organize the efforts. Since we supported the tax increase, we just wanted them to run an authentic campaign that would garner the support of the voting public, in case the petition was successful in garnering enough signatures. But we also felt that a counter campaign was important, and yard signs with a clear call to action were necessary. When I asked people to pay for their yard signs (I sold them for $20 so that I could donate one for every one that was purchased), he made a post discrediting my efforts and saying people didn’t need to pay for what they could get for free.
I countered with a question, will they say “VOTE YES” knowing the answer was no. I eventually was able to badger the district’s 501(c) to create yard signs that said “VOTE YES for JCPS,” and our team of volunteers ended up being the ones who distributed and put most of them in the ground.
A coalition I was in had been trying to run a “pro public education” pledge drive, to try to counter the No Tax Hike group as “anti public education.” We were already building momentum when not once, but twice, district leaders choked the wind out of our sails and told us to stop. We even took our complaints to Dr. Pollio.
I will have to check my notes to see if I can remember why James blocked me on Twitter, but it just adds to the list of growing concerns that I tried to bring to his attention, which were met with hostility, disrespect and who knows what else?
When my board member literally turned his back on me at a recent public meeting, I was reminded about a time a brave JCPS teacher spoke truth to power at a Board of Education meeting on behalf of her students. I was also reminded how she experienced retribution. And how I stood up for her.
Not only will I not turn my back on you, but I have your backs! And I have an extensive track record to prove it.
I’m publishing her story, with her permission.
In December of 2018, Nationally Board Certified JCPS Teacher Tiffany Dunn, spoke at a JCPS Board Meeting. I spoke immediately after her. I blogged about it shortly afterwards, including transcripts from both speeches:
In her speech, she says,
JCPS parents, teachers, and stakeholders fought hard and made it clear we had no interest in being controlled by a privatization-minded, predatory state board of education and commissioner. We succeeded, but only to have our district wave the white flag anyway?
What does “operating as if we are already under state control” look like, you ask?
Our professional learning communities have been hijacked. We have district personnel sit in our meeting every single week. Instead of having collegial conversations about student learning, we are being forced to give common assessments. On the same day. No matter where we are in our teaching. And then analyze the contrived data as if it’s legitimate.
This type of control is not only attack on teacher autonomy, it’s an attack on student learning. Along with the classroom control, we have become obsessed with MAP testing and student data. We are losing precious class time to assess students. Most appalling is that ESL and ECE students are being denied their reader accommodation on the reading portion of the MAP test.
Tiffany Dunn, JCPS Teacher
Recognizing how this brave teacher had put her position and reputation at risk, I started my prepared speech with the following statement:
I sure hope that teacher does not experience any retribution for speaking up for her students tonight.
No teacher should ever experience negative consequences for doing what’s best for their students.
And that includes our teachers who speak out against these threats of privatization and excessive testing and everything that goes along with it.
Gay Perry Adelmann, Dear JCPS Co-founder
My speech went on to express the concerns that we have been warning our leaders about for years that if they didn’t take action, we’d be where we are now. And, guess what, here we are.
I am glad to have been reminded of this story recently, because there’s more to it than what we’ve shared publicly, until now.
“We’re putting you on a cart.”
The next day, when Ms. Dunn returned to her classroom, she was summoned to the principal’s office. At this time, she was informed by the principal (who has since retired) that she would no longer have a classroom for her ESL students to call home, but that she would be “on a cart” and have to move from open classroom to open classroom finding a space to teach her students.
She called me, understandably upset, to inform me of this latest development. It was obvious to both of us that this was retaliation for speaking up for her students the night before. No doubt, her speech brought a great deal of unwanted attention on those who had been responsible for and complicit with continuing the harm, despite everyone knowing it was wrong.
Dr. Pollio had assured me in prior conversations that teachers would never be punished for doing the right thing. So I immediately reached out to Dr. Pollio to inform him that Ms. Dunn had been retaliated against. By the end of the day, she had her classroom back.
I told the story recently on this livestream, around the 44-minute mark. She has given me permission to share this story.
If you are a JCPS teacher who has experienced retaliation or retribution for standing up for students or colleagues, please let me know by completing my survey.
We all knew it was about to happen, especially once a draft of the decision was leaked, but watching “settled law” be overturned in our lifetimes still sent a palpable chill and collective nausea across every thinking person’s psyche, and served as a warning to every person who has ever been pregnant, could ever get pregnant, or who loves someone who fits that description.
“But you’re running for JCPS school board, Gay. What does this decision have to do with public education?”
I’m glad you asked.
First, let’s start with the fact that approximately half of JCPS students are female. The district does not keep tabs on how many more of its students identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ population, but chances are it’s enough to make it a safe bet that more than half of the JCPS student body faces discrimination, and that was even prior to the latest assault on non-male bodies. The Supreme Court’s latest ruling overturning Roe Vs. Wade decision respecting a woman’s right to safe reproductive healthcare will have far-reaching impacts, not only on more than half our student population, but also our teachers and staff, who are mostly women.
The reality is that the majority of our district’s students and staff currently face or will face, at some point in their lives, restricted access to reproductive healthcare, bigoted views regarding their lifestyles, and blatant (and not-so-blatant) roadblocks to opportunities that their white, straight, able-bodied, Christian friends have no trouble accessing.
While I don’t believe we should accept this dystopian future as inevitable, nor am I suggesting we not fight back with every ounce of our being, but in the mean time, we have to deal with the here and now and the fact that our children are already suffering. We have to strengthen and build community to keep them safe. We have to educate them, not only about the authentic history of the struggles of women, LBGTQIA+, disabled and people of color, so we don’t continue to make the same mistakes, but we must also teach comprehensive, factual, age-appropriate sex education, and provide Louisville families with the tools to make safe, healthy and informed decisions. We must do better as a society making sure that our schools’, students’ and families’ basic needs are met, and we must reinvest in programs such as TAPP to prepare for an influx of teen births that is certain to follow such a draconian decision. The TAPP program in JCPS has experienced significant cuts recently, despite there being little to no reduction in need.
I also attempted to explain my initial thoughts in this livestream. (Sorry it’s sideways.) I would love to hear your thoughts.